The National Picture Theatre, Hull.

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The National Picture Theatre, Hull

This is the facade of what was the National Picture Theatre on Beverley Road in Hull. It is believed to be the last remaining ruin of a civilian building from the Blitz in Britain.

It was hit at about 10pm on March 17th 1941. Incredibly all 150 people inside survived when a parachute mine exploded at the other end of the cinema; they had been unable to leave when the air raid alert sounded, so sheltered in the strengthened lobby of the building.

The film they had been watching was Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator”!

There is currently a dispute over whether the Grade II listed building should be turned into a memorial or whether it should be converted into apartments and a restaurant. Please see the link further down about the campaign to prevent that.

Google Stree View here


The Bombing of Hull

Although various cities claim to be second only to London in being bombed by the Luftwaffe, Hull was probably the city which suffered the most.

Being a relatively easy target for Luftwaffe crews both in terms of navigaton and air defence, Hull was attacked throughout the war from start to finish.

1,185 people in Hull were killed by German bombs during the war, of which one fifth were children.

Only 5,945 of the 92,660 homes in Hull had escaped bomb damage.

1,472 buildings were totally destroyed, 2,882 were so badly damaged that demolition was necessary.

data from wikipedia

Below; The rear of the theatre, taken from close to where the bomb fell.



I am not sure about the date this photo was taken, whether from before or after the bombing. The parapet is still there and the car in the foreground could be a Wolseley which appears right for the time but the car parked in front of the theatre doesn’t. Thoughts anyone?

Photo from the Hull Daily Mail. Copyright will have expired by now (if it is from before the bombing!) but I took it from this site which is where you will find out more about the campaign to prevent this unique building being turned into flats and a restaurant.



As it looked in 1987. The reason I have not presented a photo of the entire facade in the lead image is because there is a big ugly advertising hoarding covering most of it. Original source unknown but I took this image from this page;…


Poster for the movie the 150 people of Hull were watching when their cinema was bombed.


Image in public domain from…

24 comments on “The National Picture Theatre, Hull.
  1. Kingsdude/Dave says:

    Great story Ian – I`m sure this building has been featured on television in the recent past too ? Why can`t developers leave places like this in peace and go and develop elsewhere – it should never be turned into flats or a restaurant !!

  2. GregHausM.D. says:

    Fascinating (and sad) story! i’m always stunned by how greedy developers are and how little sense of history they have.
    One small town near us just won a battle against condo developers who wanted to deface a beautiful mountaintop with a bunch of "McMansions". The town bought the land and gave it to the State’s preservation committee. Over time, the committee with pay them back and it will stay untouched. If enough people protest, there are usually ways to defeat these vultures.

    • Beth Timken (plumleaves) says:

      Greg, I was rather stunned to see your Flickr account inactive! I googled around and saw you here…not sure if you will get this… I hope everything is alright with you and your family!

  3. nondesigner59 says:

    Excellent history, well captured..

  4. S Cansfield says:

    Hi Ian, Good shot. I have a large number of old images of Hull in my phone for doing a Now & Then image. As I have seen you note, sometimes getting the exact angle/lens/perspective just isn’t possible. I also struggle to find a decent original image. I have done a few more, I will have a sort through and see what I can upload!

  5. salfordlad1 says:

    More wonderful stories – and another area. We have friends in Willerby, next time I’m there I’ll mention this..

  6. Highy says:

    A story well told mate.

    The guys from the memorial trust were telling me that Hull was bombed more than London (with the exception of the V bombs) and that it was always referred to as "a northern town" in the media reports so folks weren’t aware that one city was taking so much bombing. The thinking was that if the truth became public knowledge across the country, it would have a big effect on national morale.

    It should be developed into a memorial to all the civilians killed during raids, that’s beyond doubt, problem is.. what exactly to do with it given it’s location…

  7. Ian D B says:

    [] Thanks Dave, Yeah it bugs me too, why can;t they leave well alone? It’s always about profit. Nice new icon though mate!
    [] Cheers Wilf, always appreciate you looking at these photos. Your friends in Willerby will know of this place I am sure.
    [] Good to hear Steve, I will keep an eye out for them. Yeah it can be tricky to get the position and focal length just right.
    [] Thanks Malcolm.
    [] Cheers Greg. McMansions! That’s a term I haven’t heard but it is nice to hear a success story. People don’t always realise the clout they have. There are victories to be won, and they need to be fought, no point n calling it a democracy otherwise. Still. McMansion, lol. Over here we have the phenomenon of a McPiss which is where you go into a McDonalds, use the toilet facilities then walk out without buying anything.
    [] Thanks Al, yeah I read that somewhere about Hull not being referred to in name. It was similar elsewhere, local newspapers referring to a Northern Town but it was a giveaway when it was in the Bolton Evening News, for example. Agree it should be a memorial, especially given the sacrifices made by the people of Hull. What do you mean about the location though? Thanks for taking us to this place by the way.

    • GregHausM.D. says:

      Yeah, I didn’t think “McMansions” would be a global term! 😀 Here’s Wiki’s definition:

      “In American suburban communities, McMansion is a pejorative for a type of large, new luxury house which is judged to be oversized for the parcel or incongruous for its neighborhood. Alternatively, a McMansion can be a large, new house in a sub-division of similarly large houses, which all seem mass-produced and lacking distinguishing characteristics, as well as at variance with the traditional local architecture.”

      Here’s a pic of one:

      They’re usually hideous.

      I like your McPiss expression. lol Couldn’t that also mean getting drunk in a McD’s?

      • Ian D B says:

        Lol, thanks for the definition and photo of a McMansion. Reminds me of another occasional social phenomenon, not so common now, where a working class person living on a housing estate would come into a lot of money (usually through business) and would buy or build the biggest pile he could find which overlooks the estate he used to live on and all the people he knows….

        Anyway. I rarely go to McDonalds now for anything, a McPiss or otherwise.

        Nice to see you Greg, will drop you a line. Been busy as hell at work this past 2 months, have neglected everyone, have barely added to this site in that time. Hope you are well?


  8. Richard Tierney says:

    The pic of the front with vehicles.. Looks like a Vauxhall Victor and a Morris Van with the late 40’s early 50’s taxi. I guess this would be the early 50’s. My Uncle had a Vauxhall just like it in the 50’s

    The Facade could easily be retained and built into a new building.. they have done that in Bolton to an old mill entrance that now leads into a new large "posh" housing estate.

    Like you say, Hull being so easy to spot being on the coast near a huge river estuary ( the Humber ) an easy target for German bomber crews. Looks really sad to the rear elevation. i am sure it could be cleaned up and left as a memorial. nice work as always Ian.

  9. Tech Owl says:

    Interesting – it must be a strong building to survive what it has. The rear view appears to show that houses have crept up on the former building. Always a pity when these iconic building are left to rot or even engulfed by development

  10. stopherjones says:

    Crikey, I went to uni in Hul, i andI lived up Beverley Road for 6 years and never knew or noticed! Still, if a blitzed building is going to hide somewhere, Hull would be the obvious choice 😉

  11. mick cooke says:

    Great story and info again ian

  12. stiemer says:

    Great write up Ian, nice shots.

  13. pasujoba says:

    Well put together piece Ian …Its a real problem how best to creat a fitting memorial out of the space and incorperating the ruins .
    Given the inner city location it seems that any garden would not be respected , so why not build a cinema on the spot …somehow using the ruined building preserved within the foyer of the new cinema . I suppose the draw back is the site being an odd shape and a lack of parking facility …..well and this is even further removed from the norm for me …… Move the ruins and rebuild them within a new cinema in a more appropriate place . Its not just this bombfall that it represents but all of them on Hull and indeed Britain. Does it have to be on the exact location to do this ….it could be on another once bombed location in Hull that is better situated .
    Thats a bit radical perhaps but maybe its the only way to make it work.

  14. Ian D B says:

    I think making it into a visitor centre / memorial may be the plan? I like the idea of a cinema but doubt that would work today; people want Multi screen IMAX with large first class VIP seats (or is that just me?)
    I think they should just leave it if it is safe. It has done no harm for 70 years, all it needs is the advertising hoarding removing, the street level tarting up and being made safe, some sort of memorial plaque… That would do. Then leave it alone. Fuck’s sake, I hate how everything has to be changed, people changing things for change sake (or rather to give themselves a job). Here is something unique, a true relic from the war, not something sterilised and Disneyfied like the Gedächtniskirche in Berlin. Oh well. I am becoming more conservative with the passing of every day.
    [] [] Thanks chaps.
    [] As an ex Kingstonian upon Hullian you are probably entitled to make a remark like that! My mate was at Hull Uni as well, he didn’t know of it either.
    [] Cheers Bryan. I think the buildings have always been there to be honest. Looking at the rear view, the building on the right is a pub.
    [] A Vauxhall Victor? Interesting. Certainly not pre-1941 then You are better at this sort of thing than me so I will go with you.

  15. stopherjones says:

    [] 😉 in defence of my ignorance, there are a lot of pubs on Beverley Road…

  16. bill_fawcett says:

    Interesting narrative Ian – I never realized that Hull was such a major target for the Luftwaffe. Just incredible that the 150 people survived the bombing.

  17. bazylek100 says:

    Interesting reading. Hull suffered a lot during the WWII!
    Given that it’s the last remaining ruin from the Blitz in Britain, it may be worth to leave the devastated facade of the cinema in its current state as a war memorial. It could be built into a new building (a museum or gallery perhaps?), like it’s often done with old tenement houses when only original facades are prsereved during rebuilding.
    Probably the most spectacular ruin of such kind which I saw was the Opera House in Valletta.
    Now also the ruin of the Imperial Church in Berlin comes to my mind.

  18. Highy says:

    Sorry for the delay,

    The location isn’t one of the better areas of town, it was a favoured location for drug users. The blocked up entrances to the pub (right of your second shot) and the gates on the back were put up to keep em out.

    I think if it was turned into a memorial garden, the drug users and drunks would return. I’m all for removing the hoarding and sorting the ground out so folks could walk through it and remember, but sadly I think it would get trashed. Which reminds me – some bastard’s had a go at the prop blade at Goxhill..

  19. amyrey says:

    Fascinating history. Can’t believe it is still in its bombed state, escaping the clutch of evil developers….

    Perhaps controversially, having read some of the other comments, I’d probably favour careful and sympathetic development of the site. That way, its history could be preserved and future ensured in a way that a garden of remembrance, for instance, might not. Even a restaurant or flats would be preferable to potential deterioration and abuse.

  20. David Christie says:

    Crowd funding…. turn it into a place to show our childrens, children war is never the answer.

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